COCONUT CREEK, Fla. — There was a time that Mike Brown would be preparing to fight studs like Dustin Poirier and Cole Miller. Now, he’s helping them try to reach the top of a division he once owned.
Brown, the former WEC featherweight champion, is not quite retired. But he’s also not thinking about fighting at the moment, either. He has embraced his role as coach and mentor for the younger guys at American Top Team.
"I’m not ruling out fighting again, but right now I’m focusing on coaching," Brown told FOX Sports on Wednesday after afternoon training.
Brown, 38, was the last guy to hold the top 145-pound title in the world before Jose Aldo, the current UFC champion. He holds a pair of wins over Urijah Faber. In his prime, he ruled the roost in his division and Brown still has two wins in his last three UFC bouts. But a neck fusion procedure has made him rethink his fighting future.
"I get a lot of weakness," Brown said. "It’s not pain, but literally my hand won’t work. I won’t be able to hold things. … It’s fragile. If I get my head banged around a lot, I’ll lose my strength again."
I get a lot of weakness. It’s not pain, but literally my hand won’t work. I won’t be able to hold things.
He had the surgery before his last fight, a first-round knockout loss to Steven Siler last August. Brown has also had a discectomy, where doctors take a chunk out of a herniated disc that is pressed up against a nerve.
"I’m still involved, I’m still training," Brown said. "I’m still staying in shape. But I’m not so concerned with being in shape all the time and trying to get better all the time. I’m allowing myself to just help the guys."
Brad Pickett will be arriving in Florida soon to start his camp for his fight with Ian McCall at UFC Fight Night Dublin on July 19. Pickett, who competes in the UFC’s flyweight division, will move in with Brown during that time and Brown will be one of his primary coaches.
"If he looks good in [the fight], it’ll get him that title shot," Brown said.
Brown also works closely with Poirier, Miller, Nik Lentz, Mirsad Bektic and Daniel Straus, all either up-and-comers in the featherweight division or established veterans with solid résumés. He calls the 23-year-old Bektic "the real deal" and believes Poirier is closing in on a title shot against Aldo.
He’s really happy being a coach, but Brown is not ready to commit to hanging it up either. The right situation could pull him back to the Octagon, especially if the UFC holds a show in his home state of Maine.
"I would love to do something like that," Brown said.
In the meantime, though, he’s relishing being able to get the guys at American Top Team to the next level.
"It’s not getting any easier," Brown said of the featherweight division. "Everyone on the roster is tough at 45. There’s no easy fights. You’ve gotta be well prepared. I’m enjoying this."